Sunday 21 January 2018

Bush warned Blair of Iraq invasion 'come what may'

Gavin Gordon and Sam Marsden in London

GEORGE Bush warned Tony Blair the US was going ahead with the invasion of Iraq "come what may", evidence heard at the official inquiry into the conflict suggested yesterday.

Lawrence Freedman, a member of the inquiry panel, hinted that it had seen records of conversations indicating Mr Bush was determined to overthrow Saddam Hussein, even if he co-operated fully with United Nations weapons inspectors.

The disclosure came as former British foreign secretary Jack Straw was making his second appearance before the inquiry.

There has been intense speculation about the private communications between Mr Blair and the US president in the run-up to war, details of which have been made available to the inquiry team, although they have not been released publicly. Mr Freedman, a military historian, asked Mr Straw: "Can you start by confirming that you knew that military action was planned by the US for the middle of March, come what may?

"You were copied in, presumably, to reports of conversations between the prime minister and the president?"

Mr Straw, who is now the justice secretary, replied: "Yes, I don't think there was any key document that I should have seen that I didn't." Mr Freedman then went on to ask him about his own conversations with then-US secretary of state Colin Powell.

"Was there any point where Powell said to you that even if Iraq complied, President Bush had already made a decision that he intended to go to war?"

Mr Straw responded: "Certainly not to the best of my recollection."

Mr Freedman then said: "I was going to suggest you might want to look through your conversations and check."

Mr Straw said: "I will go through the records because I think you are trying to tell me something."

In his evidence to the London-based inquiry last month, Mr Blair said that Mr Bush had told him on several occasions that they would have to "take yes for answer" if the "UN route" worked and Saddam co-operated with the inspectors.

Irish Independent

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